It sounded like a party. The Unity Stand was drowned in song that the so-called traditional watchers of the game in this country would not have recognised. The Gwijo Squad – a supporters’ club formed in 2017 who sing Zulu and Xhosa songs – made their first appearance in this series and immediately changed its tone.
It didn’t matter that South Africa were conceding the highest 10th-wicket partnership at the Wanderers and allowed England to finish on 400 or that the hosts were 60 for 4 in reply. In fact, it fuelled them. The worse South Africa’s situation got, the louder the Gwijo squad’s messages of hope rang out and the more they intended to inspire. They reserved the loudest for Temba Bavuma, son of this stadium and the only black African player in the XI.
Loosely translated (credit to Makhaya Ntini) those lyrics mean: “That’s Temba, and if you didn’t know it before, you will see him now.”
When Bavuma drove the first delivery he faced through the covers, teasingly close to the boundary, they erupted into a cheer that belied the seriousness of the situation South Africa, and Bavuma, were in. They’re both chasing the game and they both have massive points to prove.
South Africa’s chances of winning the match look increasingly thin, especially as the follow-on target is still 113 runs away. Defeat will mean a third consecutive series loss and may spell the end for captain Faf du Plessis. It was his dismissal – an unlucky one given that he was hit above the knee roll on a pitch renowned for its bounce, but the on-field decision was upheld on umpire’s call – that brought Bavuma to the crease, with a grossly unfair burden.
South Africans expect Bavuma to perform, especially after the fracas over him being left out of the second and third Tests, despite having recovered from a hip injury and with his career-best 180 still to come. “In Temba we Trust,” read one banner. But their faith was only repaid for 38 minutes, before Bavuma was caught, low in the slips, by none other than South Africa’s arch-nemesis, Ben Stokes.
Only then, did South Africa’s real hero (if anyone in their XI can be given such a lofty title) emerge. Anrich Nortje, whose nightwatchman’s vigils in the first and third Tests earned him the respect his top-order should command, walked out to a hopeless situation.
Having dragged South Africa to the edges of an advantage earlier in the day, with his maiden Test-five-for, he was now expected to drag them away from the point of no return. Late in the day. With not so much as an acknowledgement that he was there. Unless you count the lady draped in a South African flag who managed to invade the playing area and make some solid ground towards the crease before security officials caught up with her.
In muffled tones, the Gwijo squad continued to sing while the Barmy Army overpowered them with their version of Living on a Prayer (We’re halfway there, five wickets down and all that). It was hardly the reception that Nortje deserved.
His efforts in the morning saved South Africa’s blushes after they had looked likely to endure a fourth successive opening session without claiming a wicket. Nortje changed that, during the course of an eight-over spell which injected energy into a limp attack and showed the advantage of proper pace on this pitch. Nortje kept the speedgun north of 145kph on almost every ball and the last delivery of the 48 he bowled in the morning clocked in at 148kph, more than an hour he sent down his first. If you want evidence of commitment and consistency, that’s it.
Like most of the attack, Nortje erred with his lengths and was often bowling too short, but unlike them, he produced several threatening deliveries that targeted the body and teased the outside edge. With the old ball, he got Ollie Pope playing on, then Joe Root and Sam Curran in successive deliveries to put South Africa in a position from which they could limit England to something close to the average first-innings score at the Wanderers: 319. Nortje’s 3 for 40 could have changed the game, and his new-ball strike to remove Chris Woakes should have meant the England innings was almost at an end.
Instead, it went on for another 8.2 overs as questions over du Plessis’ captaincy mounted. Why were the bowlers persisting with short and wide lengths and lines? Why were there eight fielders on the boundary? Why was Dwaine Pretorius unused in that period? “I really don’t have any answers for you,” a sheepish Nortje said afterwards.
No-one could have expected him to. Although Nortje has leapfrogged Kagiso Rabada to the top of the series wicket-takers’ list, with 16 at 26.68, and in this match, he replaced Rabada as the leader of the attack, he is not the person who should be held to account. Nonetheless, he was the designed representative to address the media, after he was dismissed by the last ball of play. Again, it was not the audience Nortje would have wanted but, as he has already discovered, “you can’t choose”.
Those words came in reference to his first five-for being eclipsed by the batting fragility when he would have preferred it to have been taken in a dominant situation, but there are other things Nortje could not choose in this Test. He could not pick his bowling partners, and even though he refused to lay the blame on any of them (“It’s a collective unit. It’s not one or two of us.”) it is obvious that Dane Paterson and Beuran Hendricks would not be first-choice if Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi were fit. He could not choose the fielding strategy, which seemed misguided, and he could not choose how early he was needed with the bat. Most of all he could not choose where the attention will focus today, and it’s not on him.
Maybe for tonight, it’s not even on South Africa’s problems. Minutes after Nortje was dismissed, the Wanderers crowd began making their way to their Saturday nights and the Gwijo squad assembled for one last song and dance which they kept going all the way to the main gate. It sounded like a party. But the scorecard will tell that it really was not.
Fantasy Picks: Pack your team with West Indians
February 22: T20 World Cup – Thailand v West Indies, Perth
Our XI: Shemaine Campbelle, Stafanie Taylor, Hayley Mathews, Deandra Dottin, Naruemol Chaiwai, Nattakan Chantam, Anisa Mohammed, Suleeporn Laomi, Shakera Selman, Shamilia Connell, Chanida Sutthiruang
Captain: Deandra Dottin
West Indies’ most important player, Dottin had a wonderful T20 World Cup the last time and there is no reason why she wouldn’t sizzle again, even though she’s returning after a year out of action. Dottin has a batting strike rate of 125-plus and a couple of centuries in the format. With ball in hand, she has picked up 14 wickets in her last ten games.
Vice-captain: Stafanie Taylor
Captain Taylor is someone you can always bank on. A wily customer with the ball in hand and a hard-hitter who bats at No. 3, if she fails with the bat, she will fire with the ball more often than not. Her experience at the WBBL will come in handy as well.
Hayley Mathews: A hard-hitting batter up the order, Matthews can demolish attacks on her day. She is the only player other than Dottin to score a century in the format, and her usefulness with the ball shouldn’t be forgotten either.
Shakera Selman: The leader of the bowling pack for West Indies, Selman is capable of swinging the ball away from the right-handers and into the left-handers, at pace. Her pace, swing and accuracy could prove to be too much to handle for Thailand and that makes her a must-have.
Chanida Sutthiruang: The Thailand new-ball bowler was the highest wicket-taker in the World T20 Qualifiers in Scotland last year, picking up 12 wickets in five games including a four-wicket haul. Sutthiruang’s strike rate of 3.47 in T20s is quite unbelievable – you do not want to leave her out!
Shamilia Connell: Connell is a right-arm seamer who bowls with a lot of steam upfront and she could rattle the inexperienced Thailand top order.
Suleeporn Laomi: Another legspinner who has been successful in T20s, Laomi picked up six wickets in the Qualifiers last year at an economy of 3.16 in 18 overs.
Points to note
In the last five T20s at this venue, the top-three batters have scored nearly 71% of the runs. If the West Indies top three manage to come close to that, they will fetch you a lot of points.
‘We don’t want to play defensive cricket anymore’ – Sri Lanka’s Mickey Arthur
On Wednesday, ahead of his first ODI series as Sri Lanka coach Mickey Arthur spoke about players being handed down well-defined roles within the team. On Friday, on the eve of the first one-dayer against West Indies, he went into a little more detail about what those roles were.
Unsurprisingly, the two wristspinners in the squad – legspinner Wanindu Hasaranga and left-arm wristspinner Lakshan Sandakan – will be expected to make breakthroughs through the middle overs. Sri Lanka were one of the few teams without a reliable wristspinner during last year’s ODI World Cup. With a T20 World Cup later this year, the team is looking to fill that void.
“The key to the wristspiners, and to playing both of them together, is genuine wicket-taking options for us through the middle,” Arthur said. “That is the key, and that’s what wins you white-ball cricket games now. We want to play that brand of cricket. We are looking to attack and looking to take wickets. I think that’s the future for this team. I think in terms of our preparation, that’s been the message. The message has been around attacking. We don’t want to play defensive cricket anymore. That will be reflected in our selection. If the two wristspinners can do the job for us tomorrow, that will be fantastic, because they will take wickets.
“Wanindu is a fantastic cricketer. The way he bowls – the control of his length has been amazing. I’ve really marveled at watching him go about his business. That, coupled with his batting ability, and his fielding, he’s making a real name for himself. Sandakan, obviously, has been around the system a lot longer.”
On the batting front, Sri Lanka have a clear idea who their top six is. Each of those players has a specific job.
“The thing about our batting is that there is a license at the top of the order,” Arthur said. “You’ve got Kusal Perera and Avishka Fernando at the top of the order – dynamic. Kusal Perera will bat three. Avishka will open with Dimuth Karunaratne. They will have a licence to get us away in that Powerplay period. And 4, 5, 6 is Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews and Dhananjaya de Silva. Those are the guys who we want to control those overs 11-40. And then hopefully, we’ll have the likes of one of them, a Thisara Perera and a Wanindu, to finish it. If we script the perfect game, that’s how it would work out. We know it doesn’t always happen.”
Where fitness and fielding have been major areas of concern for Sri Lanka over the past two years, Arthur also suggested there has been substantial improvement on both fronts.
“I was watching us go through our fielding yesterday. Our fielding has improved massively. That’s testimony to the players and their attitudes. They’ve bought into where we want to go. And the coaching from Shane McDermott around that has been fantastic. We’ve been big on the split step. We’ve been big on trigger movements on the field, just to trigger the guys into action. To see the whole field moving is a massive improvement on where we were when we went to India with that T20 side [in January].
“If you are fitter you can field better and move better. Your ability and speed to get to the ball is much better.”
How Poonam Yadav bamboozled Australia
Australia were cruising at 2 for 67 chasing 133 with Alyssa Healy rolling on 51 from just 34 balls. Poonam Yadav didn’t bowl in the first nine overs and Healy hit her fourth ball for six over long-on. But the legspinner changed the game with a dazzling spell. She bamboozled Australia’s much-vaunted middle order to take 4 for 19 and guide India to victory. She nearly took a hat-trick with Taniya Bhatia dropping a tough caught-behind chance from Jess Jonassen. Here’s how Alex Malcolm and Deivarayan Muthu described the action on ESPNcricinfo’s ball-by-ball commentary.
9.5 Poonam Yadav to Healy, OUT, caught and bowled! Just a 63kph leg break does the trick. This was a better length, Healy came down to it but wasn’t to the pitch, tried to work to long-on, closed the face, got a leading edge and it floated back to Yadav!
AJ Healy c & b Poonam Yadav 51 (35b 6×4 1×6) SR: 145.71
11.3 Poonam Yadav to Haynes, OUT, Poonam strikes another blow! Lobs up a wrong’un, it lures the batter out and goes past the outside edge. Delightful flight and India are back in this. Bhatia continues her fine shift behind the stumps
RL Haynes st †Bhatia b Poonam Yadav 6 (8b 0x4 0x6) SR: 75.00
11.4 Poonam Yadav to Perry, OUT, Poonam is on a roll, she sends back Perry for a golden duck. She lobs up another wrong’un, Perry dares to step out. She is done in by the variation. Poonam sneaks through the gate and hits leg stump. What a double-strike from Poonam
EA Perry b Poonam Yadav 0 (1b 0x4 0x6) SR: 0.00
11.5 Poonam Yadav to Jonassen, no run, Nearly a hat-trick for Poonam. Bhatia, the keeper, drops it in the end. Fairly difficult chance for the keeper. Poonam lobs up another googly, draws an outside edge as the batter pushes away from the body, the keeper follows the ball, but it pops out of the gloves
13.5 Poonam Yadav to Jonassen, OUT, 58kph, tossed up on middle and breaks away sharply, yet another wrong’un. She finds the edge again. Top work from Bhatia this time, after denying Poonam the hat-trick in her previous over. She snaffles it and sends Jonassen back. She dared to sweep against the break and paid the price
JL Jonassen c †Bhatia b Poonam Yadav 2 (6b 0x4 0x6) SR: 33.33
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